• February 27, 2014
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Helping Our Parents Combat Loneliness

Over the past three years, I've spoken with hundreds of family caregivers who are concerned about a parent's loneliness and isolation. A recent study, described in this  USA Today article,  confirmed that these feelings, so common among seniors, can raise the risk of premature death by as much as 14 percent. 

What can we do to help our parents be as active and engaged as they're able? I'm posting some suggestions below in hopes that some - at least one or two - will appeal to your parent enough to want to give it a try.  If he or she likes the idea, but it's not geographically convenient, perhaps you can find something similar where your parent lives.

  • If your parent is mobile, a volunteer position may be the answer. There have many volunteer opportunities listed in the program section of our website, including those at the Aventura HospitalBRAVO (volunteer opportunities in the arts for boomers and retired people), Fairchild Tropical Gardens, and RSVP, a service that connects those ages 55+ to volunteer opportunities of their interest in Broward County. We've also told you about ReServe Miami, an organization that places retired persons in paid positions in non-profit companies.
  • Check out your local community center. You can find many throughout south Florida and you just may be surprised to see how much is going on for your parents. Check out the Senior Lift Center or the Pinecrest Community Center in South Dade, or the Herb Skolnick Community Center in Pompano Beach, or the Senior Centers in Boynton and Delray Beaches, just to name a few.
  • Meal time is often the most lonely hour of the day.  If you live near your parent, try to have them over at dinnertime or bring them a meal when you can. Another solution to the meal-time loneliness is to engage companion care for a few hours each week.  A companion from a licensed company can take your parent grocery shopping and/or prepare a meal and eat with them, and can provide just the right amount of company needed. 
  • Help your parent enroll in a class. Most Universities (and even the Delray Beach Public Library) offer wonderful classes on a wide variety of subjects. Please check out an older post on Going Back to School. You'll find all the contact information you need to learn more.
  • If your parent is able and willing, try to work with them to learn how to use some of the most simple technologies available. Maybe an iPad could provide them with the opportunity to communicate online with children and grandchildren using Skype or learning how to play brain games online, or perhaps you can help them to download books with large print or movies.
  • Adopt a pet.  It's true that pets love unconditionally and most people don't feel alone if they have a pet. If your parent is mobile, this may be a good solution.

Do you have any suggestions for tackling the loneliness issue? If so, please email them to me. I'm happy to post your suggestions.

  • March 11, 2014
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Does Your Parents' Doctor Still Make The Grade?

Breaking up with your physician, someone who’s been there for you for a long time - maybe decades - isn’t easy. It’s awkward and difficult to give up a comfortable relationship with the doctor and his or her staff. This is especially true for our parents, who, in their senior years, are loathe to start anew with someone who doesn’t know them well, and is often young enough to be a grandchild. 

Of course, no one wants to change doctors unnecessarily. There's something to be said for a parent's decision to stick with someone who is familiar with their medical history and they feel comfortable with. But is their physician trained in the unique and complex needs of a geriatric population? If so, their expertise can make a huge difference in your parent's health and vitality. If not, it would be wise to discuss finding a new doctor with your parents.

What characteristics should the ideal physician-candidate possess?

First, you want someone whose daily practice includes a large proportion of elderly patients. Taking care of seniors requires a different set of personal skills than is required for a younger generation. Often, as much time needs to be devoted to family caregivers as the patient.

High marks go to doctors with excellent “bedside manners,” and a high quotient of patience. Does he or she bristle when asked questions, or shown research reports culled from an internet search? 

The best advice I have found for evaluating physicians for elderly patients comes from Dr. David Bernstein (photo, right)  a geriatrician from Tampa, Florida and author of the book "I've Got Some Good News and Some Bad News: You're Old,"  He’s summarizes five important characteristics to look for in this easy, five-letter acronym called,Q.U.I.L.L.;

Q: Quality of Care

U: Understanding: being treated with dignity and respect

I: Promoting Independence - to live on your own, taking care of yourself, which allows “aging in place.”  

L: Listening attentively to your parents. Patient’s loook for the professional who can be a confidant, who provides good eye contact

L:  Lean In:  Showing a genuine interest and empathy.

Having been a caregiver for a parent with multiple medical needs, I can tell you first hand how helpful and true this physician-evaluation list is. I suggest printing it out and bringing it with you when you accompany your parent on their appointment with their doctor.  Do they make the grade? If not, the QUILL list will serve as a good starting point for a conversation with your parent about the need to find a new doctor.  

A good place to start your search for a geriatric-certified physician is on the website of the American Geriatrics Society, where you can search by zip code or state to find a doctor near where your parent lives.

Also, don't overlook the importance of a well-run office either. A doctor's support staff who is accustomed to handing the sudden needs of a senior when there's a health "event," can make all the difference to family members when additional help is needed.

  • March 15, 2014
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Vitas Alzheimer's Disease Caregiver Support Groups In Miami-Dade County

Here's an updated list of Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Groups (English AND Spanish) in Miami that are offered by Vitas Healthcare. For more information and to reserve to attend, please contact Norma Trabanco at 786-306-8450.

  • VITAS: Kendall Office: 11731 Milles, Drive, Suite 400, Miami  33183: Spanish Support Groups: 2nd Tuesday of the month, English Support Groups: 3rd Tuesday of the month: 6:30-8:30pm.
  • Residential Plaza ALF: 5617 NW 7th Street, MIami, 33126: English and Spanish Support Groups: 4th Tuesday of the month: 6:30-8:30pm.
  • East Ridge Retirement Community: 19301 SW 87th Avenue, MIami, 33157: English Support Group: Last Friday of the month: 2:00-4:00pm.
  • Homestead Manor: 1330 NW 1st Avenue, Homestead, 33030: English Support Groups: 1st Monday of the month. 3:30-5:30pm.
  • Sunny Hills of Homestead: 25268 SW 134th Avenue, Homestead, 33032: English Support Groups: 3rd Wednesday of the month: 10:30am-Noon.
  • Easter Seal of South Florida: 1475 NW 14th Avenue (Behind the Miami VA Hospital): Miami, FL 33125: English and Spanish Support Groups: 1st Friday of the month: 4:30-6:30pm.
  • Easter Seal of South Florida, Hialeah Center: 489 Hialeah Drive, Suite 7, Hialeah, 33010: English and Spanish Support Groups: 2nd Friday of the month: 4:00-6:00pm.
  • Riviera Health Resort: 6901 Yumuri Street, Coral Gables, 33146: Spanish Support Groups: 1st Tuesday of the month: 6:30-8:30pm.
  • Fair Haven Center: 201 Curtis Parkway, Miami Springs, 33165: Spanish Support Groups: 3rd Wednesday of the month: 3:30-5:30pm.
  • West Gables Rehabilitation Center: 2525 SW 75th Avenue, Miami, 33155: Spanish Support Group: 1st Tuesday of the month: 6:30-8:30pm.
  • Floridian Nursing and Rehab Center: 47 NW 32 Pl. Miami 33135: Spanish Support Groups: 2nd Wednesday of the month: 6:30-8:30pm.
  • FIU Student Health Center: Room #230: 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, 33199: English Support Groups: Last Friday of the month: 11:00am-1:00pm.

For more information please call (786) 306-8450

  • April 05, 2014
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Rally Round: A New Website And APP That Makes The Day-to-Day Caregiving Tasks Easier

Rally Round is a fabulous new website and iPhone app that was developed in the UK but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, can be used anywhere in the world!

Have you ever wondered how you might be able to coordinate with others to assist in the everyday, must-do tasks for your homebound loved one? Rally Round offers a practical solution by allowing you to create your own private page, identify tasks to be completed and then inviting friends or family that have expressed interest in helping! The free website – and iPhone app -- is simple and very easy to use.

You simply create a private page for your loved one (or even you for that matter) , create a to do list, and invite helpers, i.e., trusted family and friends who then commit to one of the tasks and then confirms the task’s completion. Boom that’s it. You can make periodic checks to see who’s committed to what, and what tasks are remaining.

Bottom line this website helps alleviate some of the pressure you may have placed on yourself in the day-to-day caring for your loved one, and allows others to take an active role.

  • June 06, 2014
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Know Your Loved Ones Wishes In The Case Of Serious Illness Or Incapacity

It happens all too often: families come to see me, distressed, because they don’t know what to do when their loved one has suffered a serious illness or becomes incapacitated. They don’t know what type of medical interventions their loved one would want, how they feel about artificial nutrition, like a feeding tube, or if they should just try and keep them comfortable. It adds tremendous pressure on an already difficult situation.

That’s why I counsel all my patients to set up an advance directive. An advanced directive lets families and doctors know what type of medical treatment a person would want when they are no longer able to speak for themselves.

Miami Jewish Health Systems recently conducted a Harris Poll and found that nearly three out of five adult Americans surveyed – 59% − said their loved ones do not have an advanced directive in place, or are not sure if they do.

Although this is alarming, I am not surprised by the results. This is a topic that rarely gets spoken about. There’s a feeling, “Oh, they’ll know what to do in this situation.” But without an advanced directive, family members don’t always know what to do.

I often refer patients to Aging with Dignity, a non-profit organization that has a simple living will on its website that meets the legal requirements for an advance directive. It’s called Five Wishes and lets family and doctors know the following:

  • Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
  • The kind of medical treatment you want or don't want.
  • How comfortable you want to be.
  • How you want people to treat you.
  • What you want your loved ones to know.

I also like to remind patients that an advance directive can be modified at any time and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A time-limited trial of care to allow for certain interventions or therapies a chance to work is highly recommended. And just as important as it is to put advanced directives in writing, the person you choose as a surrogate is also very important. Someone too close to you may not be the best choice because they may not be able to carry through on the decisions you want.

Seniority Matters note: Guest Blogger Brian J Kiedrowski is the Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Miami Jewish Health System, a large healthcare providers for seniors in South Florida. 

  • September 12, 2014
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The New Tablet From AARP: Just What Your Parents Have Been Waiting For

Do your parents have a tablet?  If they feel that they're too techie, complicated, and expensive then they will want to check out AARP's new tablet, the "Real Pad," that will be available starting mid-October.

The tablet features oversized texts and icons, built-in tutorials, and easy to access 24/7 tech support.  It has a 7.85-inch screen (smaller than the average tablet, but larger than a smartphone), a 2.0 megapixel front-facing and 5.0 megapixel rear-facing cameras -- and 16GB of memory!  An exclusive feature of RealPad – and one which many of us with more complex tablets wish we had available – is a “RealQuickFix” button – which monitors the tablet’s performance and allow you to diagnose and fix problems on the fly!  The retail price of $189 makes very appealing and a great gift.

You can learn more about it now by clicking here--- It's available now for pre-order or you can wait until mid-October when they'll be sold exclusively at WalMart stores. 

  • November 06, 2014
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Gift Ideas That Will Get A Couch Potato Moving

Is this the year that your friend/spouse/parent will finally get moving? That is, exercise regularly for good health and an even better disposition? I have some good ideas that just might inspire the most inert counch potato. It's worth a try.  

 Who wouldn't love one-on-one time with a Personal Trainer?

  • Sibyl Adams, is an experienced personal trainer whose fitness blog appears on this website. Sibyl is certified by the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF. Her devoted clients live throughout Miami-Dade County.
  • Another certified Fitness Trainer we highly recommend in the South Miami-Dade area is Tanis Lopez. Tanis will work with you either at your home or at the Pinecrest Fitness Center.
  • Kerry Eve runs  Eves Up and At'em. She trains in the Deerfield Beach area of Broward County and specializes in working with seniors. 

Can't find a personal trainer for you or a parent in your area? To find one that is certified to train older adults visit The American Council on Exercise website where you'll be able to search by zipcode of reside to find one near your loved one. 

Have You Checked Out Your Local Community Center?

  • A membership makes a wonderful holiday gift since it offers access to so many great fitness classes and events. It's also a great way to meet people.

For those who prefer a "non-traditional" workout:

  • Judd Zisquit, is a wellness coach and T'ai Chi Instructor specializing in seniors and those with limited mobility. You can find him teaching T'ai Chi at various senior living facilities in South Florida and he also offers private, individualized T'ai Chi classes in your home. Check out his website where you can learn more about him and all the wonderful things he does.
  • How about a gift of yoga classes?  Lara Figuero, a certified yoga instructor.  She offers classes at the church on Key Biscayne or you can arrange for a private session in your own home. An added bonus: She's also a licensed massage therapist and does deep tissue, Swedish, and Reiki massage with Aromatherapy. Check out her listing in our directory. You can find a yoga studio near you, regardless of where you or your parent live, by clicking here to view a national directory.
  • Consider introducing your friend or relative to Pilates, which focuses on strengthening the core (large) muscles, and improving balance, posture and flexibility. The Polestar Physical Therapy and Pilates Center in Miami offers a wide range of classes for every level of proficiency and because they take a holistic approach by adding physical and massage therapy to the mix. Purchasing a gift of sessions here would be an especially good fit for someone who is recovering from an injury. 

And for those who prefer to go it alone......

A group class isn't everyone's cup of tea, so here are some ideas for the individualist on your holiday gift list this year:

  • A cushioned exercise mat to make exercising more comfortable.  (It can even double as a pool float!)
  • Fill a basket with a Yoga DVD, a mat, a towel and an inspiring message. Ditto for any of the other do-at-home DVDs.
  • For those avid walkers (and shouldn’t we all try for 10,000 steps a day?), a package with a pedometer, water bottle, fitness journal and watch will put them on the right path (tuck in a gift certificate for sneakers for an extra special treat).
  • Don't Leave Home Without ItThe Road ID is a must have for anyone who leaves home for fitness; whether it's to walk, jog, bike or go to the local fitness center.  This small ID tage has enough space to keep emergency contact information, your address, even your blood type. 
  • The Fitbit One is a clever gadget that tracks how many steps you take, the calories you burn and the stairs you climb. It can even monitor your sleep. It's easy to use--- simply attach it to your clothes.  An added bonus is that it syncs to computers and some smartphones. You can purchase it on the company's website  or on Amazon.
  • Now your loved one can even excercise while reading the newspaper or watching TV with a Mini Bike Exerciser. This table or floor model can be used for your arms and legs will help with muscle strength and circulation. 
  • One of my favorites is the Eggsercizers, ergonomically shaped and designed "eggs" that fit the contours of your hand. They're perfect for hand and arm muscles.  They can be used hot or cold. 

Here's a list of websites that will make shopping for fitness gifts easier.  Enjoy!

AceFitness (find a trainer that's certified to train older adults)

Amazon

ParentGiving

firstSTREET

 

  • November 22, 2014
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My Favorite Holiday Gift Ideas For Seniors

Tis already the season -- and our older family members are always the most difficult to buy presents for. Though many insist that the only gift they'd like is quality time with their children and grandchildren, it's really nice to bring along a Holiday gift. Whether you purchase a big gift, or a small one, you want it to be something that's perfect for them. 

Here are some ideas for thoughtful gifts, most of which you can purchase online to make holiday shopping easier than ever.

  • eReaders and Tablets:  With so many new tablet options, it's hard to know which ones to buy so these guides to eReaders and tablets will help you find the best one for your parent (or you).  Despite the higher price tag, I think tablets, such as the IPAD, are a great choice seniors because they offer more functionality with apps such as Skype and FaceTime (iPad only) you can hold face-to-face conversations regardless of where you are.  This year, AARP introduced their own tablet with oversized text and icons that's available exclusively at Walmart. This is a great gift for those who live far from their grandchildren.
  • Photo Books: A gift of wonderful memories is always at the top of my holiday gift list. Creating one has become so simple and intuitive on websites such as  Picaboo, Shutterfly, and even Apple's iPhoto.  Pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS have online photo websites where you can make "brag" books, posters, calendars and other photo gifts for pick up at a store near where you live. 

  • For The Chef and Those Who Love to Putter Around in the Kitchen: There are so many fabulous gadgets that make cooking easier and safer for our loved ones.  For example, the digital measuring cup from Taylor helps you to accurately measure anything, liquid or dry.  And now, breakfast can be prepared in just a few minutes with this toaster and egg poacher from TEM.  A temperature controlled faucet light that fits on most kitchen sink nozzles is very clever. Once attached, the water will light up in a beautiful blue color when you turn on the tap. If it gets hotter, the color switches to red.  But my favorite is a set of cooking utentils from OXO (Ox-Oh) that are so fabulous for those with Arthritis. They have non-slip, flexible handles and come in attractive gift sets.  
  • Coffee, Tea, or Me.  Single serving coffee makers make it so easy to enjoy a cup of coffee without the fuss of making a whole pot. It's hard to find anything easier to use that the Keurig or Nespresso. And if your parent or other relative already has one of these, there are plenty of pods (coffee and tea) and accessories that they'll also appreciate.

  • Special Food Treats: Have you discovered My Mothers' Delicacies?  IMHO, they make the most delicious rugelach and cookies. They're packaged while still warm and even the UPS delivery person can smell the wonderful aroma seeping out from the box. Those on gluten free diets will love,love,love the cookies and brownies from Miami's own Organic GinnyBakes. You can purchase special platters, boxes of cookies, or mixes that you can make yourself if you like your cookie warm. You can send a half-gallon jar of heat and eat "hand-crafted chicken soup from  “Spoonful of Comfort.”  They include a soup ladle and made-from-scratch rolls so it can be a complete meal. The gift package comes with a note card and candy cane and they even throw in four-servings of hot cocoa. 
  • For the Visually Impaired: A magnifying glass makes a fabulous gift. There are many to choose from depending on your need.  Firststreetonline sells magnifying tools that can go over a desk top or laptop computer, can help in reading prescription bottles, those that are lit for nighttime use, and even those that just fit in a purse or pocket. How about a large TV/Audio remote controller from Big Button Remotes.  You'll find ones that are back lit and easy for those with arthritic hands to use.
  • For the Hearing Impaired: A set of “TV Listener Wireless Headphones” is the perfect gift for someone who always needs the volume set on high. They allow someone to listen to to the TV, Stereo, Radio, or any other audio source at a comfortable volume, without disturbing others in the room. This gift is not only for the hearing impaired but also for someone who wants to watch TV when someone else is sleeping. 
  • For The Visually and Hearing Impaired: A photo phone from Serene that features nine large photo memory buttons for the visually impaired. The phone also features an extra loud ringer and is hearing aid compatible. You can find this phone and other well designed phones online at Amazon as well as in stores such as Sears.
  • For the Card Player: playing card holders are a thoughtful for those suffering from arthritis or other hand joint pain and find it difficult to hold plaing cards. These are priced under $10. They can also perform double duty as Mah Johngg tile holders, or even recipe holders in the kitchen!   
  • For great stocking stuffers: How about an LED Lenser M1 Flashlight? It's powered by a lithium 10 year battery, and it's a great gadget to keep next to a bed for someone who gets up in the middle of the night. You can purchase this on Amazon.  One of my favorite gifts is a "reacher grabber."  It grabs all those things that are either too high or far away (or even on the floor). No ladders, stepstools or chairs needed. 
  • And Finally--- For the Golfer: Bionic ReliefGrip Leather Gloves are especially great for those with arthritic hands. Some wearers claim that they even   increase swing speed and distance!  They're constructed so that they will help to keep your hands cool and dry, even on hot days. 

And speaking about Golf, don't forget to check out my annual Holiday "Give A Gift of Fitness" suggestions. 

 Here's list of websites that will make your holiday gift giving for that special mature adult easier.

  • March 02, 2015
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“BE MY EYES” iOS APP

The National Federation of the Blind estimates there are nearly 7 million sight impaired people living in the US. Nearly half are 65 and older, an age group that already faces its own challenges.

But help is on the way, thanks to new app created by Danish craftsman Hans Jørgen Wiberg that seeks to make life easier for the blind by connecting them with sighted volunteers. “Be My Eyes” allows anyone with a visual impairment to ask a sighted volunteer for help with something that requires normal vision.

To request help, the user opens the app and touches a button to ask for a volunteer. Volunteers receive a notification (only between the hours of 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.), which they can either accept or ignore.

The app launched just six weeks ago in Apple’s App store (no Android version is yet available) , and has attracted almost 40,000 volunteers and 3,000 blind and visually impaired users. It’s available worldwide, in 10 languages live in the AppStore and has been translated to 31.

  • March 06, 2015
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Welcome To The New Seniority Matters Website

This is a big year for me. Seniority Matters celebrates its' fifth year, and I am turning 60. Which got me thinking about a facelift. For the website, naturally.

So I’m thrilled to unveil the new Seniority Matters website,  the result of what I’ve learned over the past few years from caregivers like you - users of our directory, my individual clients and the many professionals in the geriatric and caregiving world who continually share their diverse elder care experiences in peer reviewed journals, and in social media.

I have added many new features that I believe will expedite your search for the best caregiving solutions for your parents or other aging relatives and keep you informed of important issues we all face as we age. Among them:

  • An expanded and much easier-to-navigate Directory of top-notch, pre screened service providers throughout south Florida. You’ll find more businesses offering lifestyle - or  non-medical — services that can make life easier and satisfying for your aging parent or relative.
  • A personal chat feature for those who need some help in their directory search, or can’t decide if they can do it alone. We can chat online for a few minutes or schedule telephone time for a free, fifteen-minute chat.  
  •  “Ask Nancy” caregiving advice columns that you can search by topic such as caregiving, family relationships, or financial.  There’s a good chance you’ll find one or two columns that particularly resonate with you. Sending me a question of your own is now easier too. Look for the “Ask me a Question” purple button on the home page.
  • An expanded and up-to-date listing of resources that can provide the information or services that you’re looking for. It’s in this area of the website where I’ll be sharing information about activities in community and adult day care centers as well as community-based programs that can provide respite and companion care at low or no cost.  
  • Finally, don’t forget to check out my blog and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. These are where I share everything I learn about aging, geriatric care, trends in caregiving, and even new products and services that can enhance your parents’ life and help you, the caregiver.


As you may know, I established Seniority Matters following my own experience with aging parents. I am grateful to be doing something that I love --- sharing what I’ve learned as a caregiver and healthcare professional with families that are now in a similar situation.

My new website is designed with you in mind. I hope you find it helpful.  I love hearing from you, so don't hesitate to contact me with website feedback, or questions or concerns.

  • May 04, 2015
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We Have Your Pets Covered Too: Introducing EQUIPAWS PET SERVICES:

Did you know that more than half of all households have at least one pet? If you or a parent live in Miami (Downtown Miami to Cutler Bay) - and have a pet, then you’ll be happy to learn about Equipaws Pet Services. Flavia and Frankie Berti offer a vast array of services that include professional pet sitting, dog walking and running, and boarding while you’re out of town, either your own home or in a setting just like it. They also provide transportation services to the vet, petstore. or groomer.

One of the things I like most about them and why I'm so thrilled to welcome them to our network of service providers, is that they take the care and safety of ours pets as seriously and as lovingingly as we do—they know our pets are members of our family. Equally so--- they treat the safety and care of their clients with the highest priority. They conduct backgrounds checks and spend time getting to know all their employees.

Their services fill a huge need. The one thing that we can always count as we and/or our parents age is that unplanned events, appointments, and challenges occur without warning. And when these events take place, our dogs still must get out  to do their business and get their exercise. Flavia and Frankie to the rescue.

The process is easyy: you simply a schedule an in-home interview—where they can introduce themselves to you and your pet and learn where you keep the pet supplies, and other particiulars about your pet. That way when you have the need for their services, you simply have to call. It’s requires very little planning ahead. Your pet will welcome them with purrs and licks. 

They're very active on Facebook and Instagram—so when you’re not with your dog---you can still see them--- and witness, first-hand all the fun they’re having. For full disclosure---I use Equipaws services for my own dog for whom nothing is too good! It gives me the peace of mind I need when I am at a comference or out of town--- I love viewing the photos of him that they post. It's the next best thing to being there.

To learn more about their services, you can view their listing in our directory, visit their website- or follow them on Facebook or Instagram—You’ll be glad you did! You won’t be able to help but smile!

  • May 04, 2015
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GreyMatters: A Great Way To Share Memories With Older Family Members

If our childhood friend "Old McDonald" ran the iTunes store instead of his farm, he'd probably sing, "Here an app, there an app, everywhere an app-app!"  Today, there are hundreds of great Apple and Android applications that you can download for a better lifestyle.

In my ongoing search for great applications and other resources for seniors and caregivers, I ran across GreyMatters. It's an exciting and interactive free iPad app that that makes it easy to share memories and stories with family members suffering from Alzheimer's disease or other dementias.

Offered by GreyMatters LLC, this app is basically an interactive life storybook that includes preloaded music from past decades, memory games. It lets you add personal family photos with easy-to-read text, and can bring a big smile and a long-lost "spark of life" to seniors who spend their days lost in their own worlds.

I can tell you first hand that communicating is one of the most difficult aspects of caring for a parent with dementia. But several years ago, I realized that  sharing memories over family photos was one of the easiest and most fulfilling ways for me to communicate with my father who had dementia.

We had some good laughs together as he told me stories prompted by pictures in his own high school yearbook, and we chuckled at the fashions and hairstyles in my yearbooks from the '70s. Those times together were some of my favorite memories of my dad in his last years.

Now, GreyMatters makes it easy for you to connect with an aging family member with memory issues. It gives you a wide variety of communication tools, so you can try different ways to break through. You can also record reminders for your loved one, or answers to their most common questions.

With GreyMatters, you can load your tablet with your own photos or videos from the past or the present. You could also play a game of memory cards, helping your senior find matching photos of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, or other celebrities from that era.  The tablet screen is big enough for a senior with vision problems, but light enough to fit in your purse.

You can also create a custom music playlist from your iTunes library or take advantage of pre-loaded songs from the 1940s and '50s that are bound to strike a chord with an aging relative. Maybe you could sing along together – but don't be surprised if your senior can remember the words to those old standards better than you can!

By letting you create a personalized digital "scrapbook," GreyMatters is providing a wonderful service to families all over the country. I encourage you to download this app, and share your experiences with me.

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